Dr. Kristen Mitteness
Could my arm pain be from my neck?
Over the past few weeks, I've had a surge in patients with arm pain, tingling or numbness in their fingers or weakness in their hand. Some suspect carpal tunnel, some have associated it with their shoulder or neck. What's really going on here?
There is a set of nerves that start at your spinal cord within your cervical spine (your neck), go through muscles near your neck and shoulder and make their way down your arm into your finger tips. As a whole, it is called the brachial plexus. Its final result is 5 main nerves: musculocutaneous, axillary, radial, median and ulnar. Depending on where the nerve is being irritated can change the types of signs and symptoms one may present with. When any nerve in your body is being irritated through a tight muscle, poorly moving joint, bad posture or something else, it is likely to feel pain, tingling, numbness or burning. But, did you know that only 10% of your nervous system actually feels pain? Chances are, your nerve has been irritated much longer than your pain has been present.
So, how is something like this treated? First, I check posture. Is one shoulder sitting higher than the other? Is the head tilted to one side? Are the shoulders rounded forward? Then, I check range of motion. Can the patient move his or her neck through all ranges of motion without pain or pulling? Remember, pain is not normal! It's a sign of a dysfunction. After that, I'll palpate, or check the area through touching, to find any muscles, joints or ligaments that aren't moving properly, feel tender or aren't in alignment. Think about your vehicle. If your tire alignment is off just slightly, will your car wear out faster? Will you notice right away? Lucky for us, the human body is extremely resilient and adaptable.... until it isn't. Chances are, the problem that is causing your finger numbness, tingling or pain has been there for a while, it just wasn't sending you pain signals. Unless you had an acute accident (car accident, fall, hit). So, what't next? After mobilizing the joints I think are involved in the dysfunction, I'll adjust any joints that are subluxated (not dislocated) or not in alignment or moving well, starting with the back, neck and shoulders. Then, I'll utilize a myofacial release technique to mobilize the muscles in a way to release or remove irritation to the nerve. More often than not, patients feel a bit of relief right after the treatment. Is it completely fixed after a single treatment? Probably not, but, we're on our way. And then we have to troubleshoot what caused it in the first place. Is it your posture at work? If so, it needs to be addressed or else we're simply chasing our tail. Is there underlying inflammation? What we do in my office is one piece of the puzzle. To truly heal, we need to address all underlying causes. Pain and dysfunction is most often not from just one thing, but the result of a perfect storm. Through chiropractic, nutrition and self care, I will work to not only help you feel better, but function better... for the rest of your life. Want to work with me? Have additional questions? Contact me here.